50 Yard Challenge connects kids to community


LINCOLN, Ill. (WCIA) — Some people dread going out to mow the lawn. But one challenge is encouraging kids to not only go out and do it, but to also help their neighbors. And a handful of kids in Central Illinois rose to it

The 50 Yard Challenge was started by Rodney Smith Jr, the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service. Even though it’s based out of Madison, Alabama, the organization has touched those thousands of miles away.

“The point is to get kids out there and involved in their community to mow lawns and meet their neighbor,” said Smith. “We found that when kids took on the 50 Yard Challenge, they got to meet people they probably wouldn’t normally meet if they wasn’t taking part in the 50 Yard Challenge.”

Kids go out and mow 50 lawns for free, with the intention of helping the elderly, those with disabilities, single parents and veterans. During the colder months when mowing isn’t an option, kids can also rake leaves and shovel snow off of driveways.

“They’re getting to know their community and meet their neighbors,” said Smith. “I think it’s very important.”

Those who complete the challenge not only help their neighbors, but they also receive something special from Smith: a new lawn mower, a weed eater, and a blower, all hand delivered.

“That’s just part of the challenge, something for them to look forward to,” said Smith. “You know, a lot of kids they mow their fifty free lawns, and some of them continue on and some of them, you know, start growing a little business. So you know, it’s a win win.”

He said he has an Amazon Wishlist for the lawn equipment where people will buy it and donate it to RMLCS. Whenever a child completes the 50 Yard Challenge, Smith takes that donated equipment and gives it to them.

Smith drove up from Alabama on Tuesday to deliver those much earned items to four Central Illinois kids who completed the challenge: three brothers in Decatur, Uriah, Elijah, and Noah, and one boy in Lincoln, Spencer Bean.

Bean said it took him between a month and a half to two months to mow fifty lawns, but he’s now up to 62. He said he did it because he wanted to help others during the pandemic in his own way.

“It can bring joy to the world, and even though there’s hate around, there can still be some love and happiness,” said Bean.

He said the new lawn equipment will replace what he already has, and he plans to mow a lot more yards next spring.

The four Central Illinois boys join more than 100 other kids who have completed the 50 Yard Challenge, but Smith said more than 1,300 are still working towards their goal across the nation. But the challenge isn’t just for people in the United States. Smith said kids in eight different countries are participating, too.

And yes, he said he’ll fly internationally to deliver that lawn mower, weed eater and blower to those across the world who beat his challenge.

The 50 Yard Challenge is open to kids between the ages of 7 and 17. To enter, click here.

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